As crisis intensifies, poll shows most Americans don't trust Trump

Americans hear their president make claims about the crisis, but they have no idea whether he's telling the truth. It's a recipe for widespread confusion.
Image: US-POLITICS-TRUMP
President Donald Trump speaks as CEO of Bank of America Brian Moynihan (2L), Chief Executive of Citigroup Michael Corbat (L), and President and Chief Executive Officer, Independent Community Bankers of America, Rebeca Romero Rainey look on during a meeting with banking leaders to discuss how the financial services industry can meet the needs of customers affected by COVID-19 at the White House on March 11, 2020Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

Historically, there's a temptation in some circles to look to the American president to lead during a time of crisis. The trouble is, in 2020, most Americans don't trust their president.

Americans have little trust in the information they are hearing from President Trump about the novel coronavirus, and their confidence in the federal government's response to it is declining sharply, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.... Just 37% of Americans now say they had a good amount or a great deal of trust in what they're hearing from the president, while 60% say they had not very much or no trust at all in what he's saying.

The NPR report on the poll's findings added that Donald Trump fared the worst of all the groups tested, having less credibility than public health officials, state and local officials, and the news media.

Naturally, there are sharp partisan divides, but none of the numbers are especially good for the president. Only 8% of Democrats said they trust the information coming from the Oval Office, and 34% of independents said the same thing. Those are clearly abysmal numbers. Among Republicans, not surprisingly, Trump does far better, but even among GOP voters, roughly one in five have trouble believing the president.

It's hard to blame Americans for feeling this way. Not only does the Republican have a lengthy track record of lying about matters large and small -- long before anyone had even heard the word "coronavirus" -- but he's also been caught peddling a variety of falsehoods about the viral outbreak itself. CNN's Daniel Dale recently noted in a report, "President Donald Trump has been comprehensively misinforming the public about the coronavirus. Trump has littered his public remarks on the life-and-death subject with false, misleading and dubious claims. And he has been joined, on occasion, by senior members of his administration."

A Washington Post report added over the weekend, "The global outbreak of the novel coronavirus has confronted President Trump with a public health and economic crisis that requires consistent, accurate messaging to guide Americans. But the president often has played down the threats, offering false, misleading or ignorant statements."

The point is not to mock Trump for being a dishonest leader. This much was already clear before eight weeks ago. Rather, what matters about poll results like these is that it hampers the response to the public-health emergency.

Americans routinely hear their president make a series of claims about the crisis, but they have no idea whether he's telling the truth. It's a recipe for fear, uncertainty, and widespread confusion.